Highly unlikely plane landed, refuelled undetected: Aviation expert

PETALING JAYA - It is highly unlikely that Flight MH370 could have landed anywhere undetected and refuelled before continuing its journey, said an American aviation expert.

Military-trained retired pilot Col J. Joseph told The Star that if the recorded altitude deviations from 35,000ft to 45,000ft and 23,000ft were accurate, the aircraft was either out of control with uncommanded inputs or intentionally manoeuvred by a trained pilot.

"Either way, I believe the aircraft is in the water and likely ran out of fuel.

"If intentional 'crashing' was the motive/plan, the debris would likely have been found in the area of radar loss," he said in an e-mail interview, responding to the likelihood of it crashing after running out of fuel despite being deliberately flown in a planned route for over seven hours.

Col Joseph concurred with other aviation experts, who believe it was more probable that the aircraft had taken a route heading over the Indian Ocean instead of the northern corridor up to the border of Kazakhstan.

He said it was not that difficult to fly undetected at virtually any altitude without a transponder, unless it was being specifically searched for by air traffic control.

He added this applied to flight within radar coverage range over land or water.

Col Joseph said military radar was far more discriminating as it could "skin-paint", allowing the radar to search for large objects which reflect the radar and give a "blip" or target on the radar scope.

"Flight at very low altitude (200ft above the surface or lower) is very hard to detect. That is how we are trained in the military to avoid radar exposure," he said.